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Jury orders LA County to pay more than $600,000 to physician who sued, alleging workplace retaliation

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LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County was ordered Wednesday to pay more than $600,000 to a physician who said he suffered retaliation for reporting racist actions by another doctor and for complaining about malfunctions of medical equipment.

The Los Angeles Superior Court jury reached its verdict in Dr. Timothy Jang’s lawsuit after a few hours of deliberations Tuesday. The verdict was read Wednesday in the courtroom of Judge Jon R. Takasugi.

Jang is a physician and professor at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, which is jointly owned and operated by the county and the UC Regents. The suit went to trial with the county as the lone defendant.

Jang is the director the ultrasound fellowship program at the medical center. He maintained that the hospital’s emergency department chairman, Dr. Roger Lewis, ordered him not to hire foreign doctors as fellows.

“Dr. Jang disobeyed this illegal instruction and reported it to the county and university,” Jang’s lawyers stated in their court papers.

Jang also told of racist comments he maintained that Lewis made in the workplace as well as his concerns that ultrasound machines allegedly did not comply with federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services regulations, according to the suit.

In retaliation, Lewis increased Jang’s clinical workload, refused to fund a fellow for one year and declined twice to promote the plaintiff to senior physician, an advancement he was entitled to because of his seniority, the suit alleges.

The refusal to promote Jang resulted in significant economic losses to him, the suit states. In their verdict, the jury allocated all but $150,000 of the total $603,610 award to Jang’s past and future wage losses.

In their court papers, county attorneys denied any wrongdoing on Lewis’ part.

“Ultimately, plaintiff’s claims fail because there is no evidence that any of the actions taken with respect to his employment were motivated by anything other than Dr. Lewis’ legitimate efforts to safely and fairly manage a high-volume emergency department,” the county lawyers argued in their court paperrs, adding that Lewis’ “compelling justifications for applying uniform changes to the workloads of the physicians … cannot be disputed.”

Since being hired in 2009 at Harbor-UCLA, Jang has never been demoted, disciplined, placed on administrative leave or had a pay reduction, the county attorneys further note in their court papers.

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